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Colosseum, Rome

Italy History and Culture

Introduction

Italy is a treasure trove of Mediterranean history and culture; a country of crumbling ruins and gilded palazzos; of revered artworks and religious seats. It's almost impossible to ignore the richness of it all when you travel here, though the food is a worthy distraction. Gaze up at the leaning tower of Pisa, explore the floating walkways of Venice or wander among the columns of the ancient Colosseum. Even in the tiniest towns, a sense of history is evident simply in the families that pass down recipes and trades from generation to generation.

Historic Cities

Roman Forum at sunset in Rome
Roman Forum

Italy's many famous cities are home to some of the world's greatest architecture and most-visited attractions. In Rome, the Pantheon, the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, and the Vatican City – home to the spectacular St. Peter’s Basilica – are undeniable highlights. In Venice, the very streets are a historic sight themselves, winding between networks of narrow canals that lead to the Grand Canal – the centre of trade to the Republic since the Middle Ages. In Florence, home of the Renaissance, the iconic Duomo cathedral dominates the city's skyline, and Michelangelo’s “David” sculpture draws the crowds. And, in the Emilia-Romagna region, Piacenza, Palma, Modena and Bologna showcase everything from Byzantine churches and UNESCO World Heritage sites to grand opera houses and the birthplace of balsamic vinegar.

Iconic Landmarks

Preserved city streets in Pompeii, Italy
Pompeii

All across Italy, iconic landmarks bring to life historic events, many outside of the main cities. In southern Italy’s Campania region, not far from the picturesque Amalfi Coast and the Bay of Naples, lies Pompeii. Once a vibrant Roman city, Pompeii was buried under meters of volcanic ash after Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D. Today, it is a perfectly preserved window into the past, and the most-visited archaeological site in the world. Then, in the country's northwest, along the Italian Riviera coastline, lies historic Cinque Terre, comprising five villages – Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. The area was long considered a strategic point of defence in times of conflict, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. The list is endless; from that oh-so-famous tower in Pisa to the vast Arena di Verona, Italy is full of icons.

Hidden History

Templet at Agrigento, Sicily
Agrigento, Sicily

Away from Italy's busiest cities, a little off the beaten track, there are plenty of historical gems to be uncovered. In Puglia, right at the heel of the Italian boot, Trani's highlights include a hilltop cathedral and a church built by the Knights Templar in the 12th century, and in the nearby UNESCO-listed town of Matera, thousand-year-old dwellings cling to the cliffs. The strange conical-roofed houses known as trulli, unique to Puglia, remain a mystery to this day. And, away from the mainland, Sicily is dotted with stunning Arab-Norman architecture, ancient villas, and the millennia-old temple wonders of Agrigento.

 

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Our top itineraries for Italy History and Culture

Isola Bella, Taormina, Sicily

Best of Sicily

8-day tailor-made self-drive from £855 pp incl. flights

With the flexibility to explore at your own pace, link Sicily’s highlights with spectacularly rural drives and stays in some of the island’s premier hotels. You’ll take in everything from Cefalù’s white-sand beaches to Agrigento’s temple wonders and Taormina's ancient grandeur.

Backstreet restaurant, Taormina

Gastronomy of Sicily

8-day tailor-made self-drive from £1,055 pp incl. flights

Sicily's rich past has given rise to a uniquely contrasting history and it's a similar story when it comes to its food and wine. You’ll take it all in with stays in boutique properties and pretty country drives, with the island’s famous gastronomy showcased in wine tastings and open-kitchen dining.

Capri, Italy

Capri & the Amalfi Coast

9-day tailor-made holiday from £1,840 pp incl. flights

Let stays in world-class hotels and the services of private drivers showcase the best of Capri’s island paradise, the Amalfi Coast’s dramatic beauty and Sorrento’s clifftop views. In between, there's plenty of time for some beach-side relaxation and independent exploration.

Como lake, Italy

Northern Italy and the Lakes fly-drive

12-day tailor-made self-drive from £1,500 pp incl. flights

Calm blue lakes, snow-crested mountains, grandiose villas and some of Italy's finest Belle Époque hotels provide the backdrop to this tailor-made driving holiday through beautiful northern Italy. Its bookended by stays among Milan's ultra-fashionable repose and Verona's fabled past.

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Top offers for Italy History and Culture

Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

Venice Simplon-Orient-Express: London to Venice

4-day luxury rail journey from £2,790 pp incl. flights

Special
offer

2020 & 2021 departures discount – Save up to £115pp
Book by: 31 August 2020

The signature route – Alpine vistas and French countryside paired with champagne receptions, multi-course meals and a luxury Venetian stay, reached by private water taxi.

Sorrento

Tuscany, Umbria & The Amalfi Coast

10-day tailor-made self-drive from £1,410 pp incl. flights

Special
offer

2020 departures discount – Save up to £75pp
Book by: 31 August 2020

Soak up the cultural heritage, picturesque cities and towns, natural beauty, historical sites and tantalising cuisine of Tuscany, Umbria and the Amalfi Coast with this self-drive journey.

Vltava River, Prague

The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express: Venice-Prague-London

7-day luxury rail journey from £4,520 pp incl. flights

Special
offer

2020 & 2021 departures discount – Save up to £265pp
Book by: 31 August 2020

Take some extra time to indulge with one of the world’s most luxurious trains on a journey paired with stays in two of Europe’s city greats.

Ponte Pietra in Verona

Venice Simplon-Orient-Express: Verona to London No-fly

5-day tailor-made no-fly luxury rail journey from £3,175 pp

Special
offer

2020 departures discount – Save up to £155pp
Book by: 31 August 2020

As an alternative to the classic Verona to London route, this tailor-made no-fly itinerary brings you to one of Italy's most treasured cities followed by an iconic rail journey on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.

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At Wexas, we specialise in bespoke travel experiences. Our itineraries are just samples of what we can arrange, and can be changed depending on your precise needs, finances and ideas by our experienced destination specialists.

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